This is the sequel fic to More than one way to win. I advise you to read that one first if you haven't already.
WARNING: CHARACTER DEATHS
This is what happens to make Naruto kill Sasuke, and what happens two months after. Loose ends tied off here.
"Hai Godaime Hokage-sama."
"I have an S-rank mission for you. You will be accompanied by Hyuuga Neji."
"Hai Godaime Hokage-sama."
"You are to go to the Sound Village, and find out what Orochimaru is up too. He's been quiet for far too long."
"Hai Godaime Hokage-sama. Is that all?"
"No." She says, then she sighs. "Naruto, look, I know this is going to be tough for you, but you can't let your personal feelings get the better of you during this mission, okay?"
"Hai Godaime Hokage-sama." I say through clenched teeth.
"Look Naruto, I'm really counting on you for this one. You're one of the few with experience against Orochimaru. You've seen him in battle, and you know more about him than most Jonin do. Hyuuga is only there in case of conflict. The rest is up to you. Got it?"
"Hai Godaime Hokage-sama."
"Very well Naruto, you may go."
"Hai. Arigatou Gosaimasu (thank you very much) Godaime Hokage-sama."
I turn on my heel and walk out through the large wooden doors swiftly, and I pretend I didn't hear Tsunade-sama saying "Good luck Naru-chan, make Yondaime proud." I know that Yondaime Hokage was my father, Jiraia told him so back when he mastered his speed jutsu. Even though it had only been a year and a half, to me, it feels like ages.
I go back to my apartment. It's sparsely furnished, but it doesn't matter, because I'm away on missions most of the time anyway. I've been especially busy the past month or so since I became a Jonin. I haven't even had time to go visit Iruka-san in the hospital.
I quickly dismiss the thought from my mind as painful memories of the battle come flooding back.
I pack some clothes and food into my backpack. Before leaving, I take the picture of Team 7, worn and bent and slip it into my pocket. I never go on a mission without it since he left. It's my reminder of why I work so hard.
I finish packing, then I take my bag and go to the training grounds. It's filled with genin, and even some new chunin. There's not a jonin in sight, but I sense one's presence anyway.
I concentrate for a moment on the chakra.
"Gai-san, why are you following me?" I ask him curtly. My back is still turned towards the tree that he is sitting in, and some of the others are staring at me. They haven't noticed yet that he is here, and they probably think I'm talking to myself."
"Very good Naruto, you are truly worthy of being Jonin." A tall man in a green spandex suit appears in front of me. He's wearing orange leg warmers, and has a red Konoha hitai-ate wrapped around his waist.
"I simply wanted to gaze upon the youthful children training. And imagine my surprise when I came upon my old rival's student? Is that so wrong?"
I cringe inwardly at the mention of my old sensei. It was announced that he died on a mission just a few days ago.
When I don't say anything, he sighs deeply.
"My, my. You certainly have changed Uzumaki Naruto." And with that, he disappears in a cloud of smoke, gone as quickly as he came. I can no longer sense his chakra.
I decide to forego any notions of training for the time being. Instead I take my bag and begin walking towards Konohagakure's main gate. I could have used a ninjutsu to get there faster, but I don't like to be in a hurry. Now I prefer to take my time. Anyway, if I used a ninjutsu, I'd be early.
When I arrive, no one is there except for me and the jonin guarding the gate.
"Uzumaki Naruto, right?" He asks me.
"Hai." I say casually.
"S-rank mission to the Sound with Hyuuga Neji, am I correct?"
After confirming this, I lean against a tree. I stare at the clear blue sky, and watch as a bird soars across its vastness.
I sense someone else's chakra.
"Good afternoon Hyuuga-san."
"There are two birds Uzumaki-san."
True to his word, another bird flies out of the tree, sailing across the sky after its companion.
We walk soundlessly until dusk. We are in no hurry today.
"Uzumaki-san, I suggest we stop and set up camp for the night."
We set up a tent, and make a small fire. It's safe to do that for the time being, because we're still relatively close to Konoha.
Neji-san goes to sleep, but as usual, sleep evades me. I've become quite the insomniac recently. Instead, I sit at the foot of a tree, and look up at the stars.
They are such strange things, stars.
A wise person once told me that everyone finds a star that shines brightest for them. Just like everyone finds a person that shines brightest for them.
I look up at the sky, just as I do every night to confirm my existence. I feel that as long as I can see my star every night, and as long as I feel infinitely small underneath the vast black sky, then life will go on for me.
I eventually fall asleep leaning against the tree, but I know in the morning that I only got two to three hours of sleep. At first I found it hard not to fall asleep during the day, but now I can function on barely any sleep at all.
In my dreams, memories of happier times played themselves in my head. I sleep peacefully on nights like these.
The next morning we continue onwards towards the sound. This time we move much faster, under the cover of the trees.
I can tell that Neji-san is at his own maximum speed, but I am not. Had I been alone, I could have made it to the sound in a day. At this rate, it will take us another two or three.
Towards the end of the day, we set up camp. Neji found a shortcut with his Byakugan, and because of it, we made much more progress than I had expected. We should arrive around mid day tomorrow.
We set up camp again, and after a silent dinner, Neji-san goes to sleep.
Once again, I find a tree, but this time I sit up in a branch, and cover my chakra. We're too close to enemy territory to be casual about this.
I see my star. I don't know how I know that it's the same one, but something deep inside of me confirms it every night.
A few hours of mediation later, I'm about to fall sleep when I hear a noise. Neji-san is still asleep, so I know it can't be him. I sense someone's chakra, but it's only for a fleeting moment.
Whoever it is is extremely good at hiding their chakra. It does however seem familiar. I try to think of who it could be, but no one comes to mind.
"Show yourself." I say. My voice is calm and flat, betraying no emotion.
I hear a cold laugh coming from somewhere above me. The sound sends a shiver down my spine, but in that instant, I know exactly who it is.
"It's been a long time, hasn't it…Sasuke?"
He is no longer trying to conceal his chakra, and neither am I.
"So Naruto, it is you." He pauses, but makes no move to come out in the open.
"You've changed quite a bit. Has my leaving really affected you that much?"
The way he says that last part just makes me furious, but I tell myself that I have to control my rage.
"Show yourself." I repeat coolly.
There's a rustling of leaves, and I am face to face with him. It's been so long. He's changed too.
He's taller now, but I have about two inches on him anyway. His hair is longer now too. It goes midway down his back, and he's tied it in a ponytail up at the top.
He looks like Itachi.
If possible, his skin looks paler than it did before, but the biggest change is in his eyes.
They are still that same cold shade of black, but now they look…evil. They look like they want to inflict pain. Before, if you really looked, they looked hurt and betrayed, afraid and alone.
My hand moves on its own. It slips into my pocket, fingers grasping the edges of the old photograph. I pull it out of my pocket.
"What's that you have there Naruto?" Sasuke asks, a hint of amusement in his voice.
"You kept that old thing?"
"And what of it?"
He pulls something out of his pocket as well. It's a small slip of paper.
"Do you know what this is, Naruto?" He asks, holding the paper up for me to see.
"This is the note I almost left behind that day. I brought it with me today when I found out I'd be seeing you again."
He lets go of the paper, and a gust of wind blows it over to me. It lands on the ground by my feet. I pick it up and read it.
I'm sorry. I'll come back one day, but right now, this is what I have to do. I need more power to kill Itachi and avenge my clan. But, I promise that I'll come back. Wait for me, please. Especially you Dobe, we have a battle to finish.
I drop the note. 'Why would he show me this?' It hits the ground, and just sits there, waiting for something to happen. Then I let go of the photo too.
Sasuke walks over and picks it up, but I don't even flinch now that he is one foot from me. I stand and stare defiantly at the man who ruined my life.
He runs his thumb over the glossy surface, tracing each crease with his finger over and over again.
"So, how is Sakura? What about the others? Gai, Ten Ten, Neji, Shino, Lee, Kiba, Hinata, and what about the three from Suna? He's Kazekage now, isn't he?"
He rips the photo right down the middle, and he's laughing hysterically while he does.
"I've hears a lot about Konoha in my absence Naruto."
He slips his hand into his shuriken Hollister, and pulls something out. It's long and silver.
A senbon needle.
"Oh yes Naruto. I heard about your Jonin exam too. So please, do tell, how does it feel to hurt 'family' like that?"
He knows that I think of Iruka-san as family. I can tell that he's referring to Itachi.
He takes to long needle and pricks his finger with it. A single drop of blood oozes out. The tip of the senbon is stained with red.
"Oh, and one other thing Naruto, how's Kakashi?"
A sick, twisted grin spreads out across his face
"That's right! Kakashi never came back from that last mission, did he?"
He jumps back suddenly. He's now ten feet away from me
"Oh yes, Naruto. I know more than you think I do. In fact, I think I know probably know more than you do. Do you know who killed our old sensei, Hatake Kakashi?"
'Oh no, please don't tell me that you killed him Sasuke. I don't think I can take that.'
"I killed him Naruto."
I can't hold back any longer. I lunge at him with a Rasengan. He's not fully expecting it, but he's so far away that he has time to dodge it.
I make another one, and Sasuke wields Chidori.
I think about that time on the roof of the hospital.
This time though, I know Kakashi won't jump in to stop us.
We lunge at each other.
Chidori and Rasengan hit each other dead-on.
I can feel his arm pushing mine back. If I don't d something now, this battle will be over already.
'Kage Bunshin no Justu!'
The sound of the Chidori drowns out the 'poofing' noise of the shadow clone appearing behind Sasuke.
The Kage Bunshin makes his own Rasengan. I move my head only slightly, without taking my eyes off of Sasuke's, indicating for the clone to go ahead.
Suddenly, Sasuke coughs blood all over my face and chest. I feel his arm going limp. The Chidori disappears. I can feel my own Rasengan pressing into his chest.
I stare as the man who I once called my best friend lay bleeding in the dirt.
"N…Naruto." He says feebly.
I don't know why, but I go to him, and I kneel down in the dirt next to him.
"N…Naruto, I n…never did tell you why I killed Kakashi."
I begin to get up, I'm not sure that I want to hear where this is going.
"W…wait Naruto. P…please, come back." And I do.
"The r…reason why I killed Kakashi…" he stops to cough.
"H…. he w…was going to sell Konoha out to O…Orochimaru."
"Usotsuki (liar)!"Kakashi would never do something like that!" I yell at him.
He just smiles weekly.
"H….he promised that e w…would bring Obito b…back."
Obito. The name sounds familiar.
I'd heard Kakashi talk about him before.
"Obito…like, Uchiha Obito?"
Uchiha Obito had been Kakashi's best friend, but he died on a mission.
"S…Sasuke!" It was I who was stuttering now.
The reality of the situation dawned upon me then. Sasuke was dying, and I killed him!
He had done us a favor by stopping Kakashi! He was saving lives!
Sasuke's eyes shut, and his breathing stops.
Tears stream down my face. I haven't cried in years.
"N…Neji-san, w…when did you wake up?" I ask, my voice still trembling.
I have to recompose myself.
"I heard something. It sounded like… like a thousand birds chirping."
"Ch…Chidori." I mutter softly.
"Naruto, is that… Sasuke?"
"Is he… did you…" It was strange to see the famed Hyuuga tensai at a loss for words like this.
"I… I killed him Neji! I killed him!" I begin to cry again. I know that it's shameful, but I can't stop myself.
After telling Neji about my encounter with Sasuke, he told me to go back to Konoha. He told me I was an emotional wreck, and that I was of no use to him in my current state. I had to agree with him though.
He told me he would stay for another day, and then start heading back.
He also advised me to go to Tsunade-sama first thing and tell her about what happened here.
I stumble through the large wooden doors blindly before collapsing on the floor in a heap.
I'm tired and much of my chakra is drained, because I used the Fourth's speed jutsu to get here in just one day and night. I didn't even stop to rest once.
Shizune and Tsunade jump up when they see my condition.
"Naruto! What's wrong Naruto, what happened? Where's Neji?" She is now crouched next to me, her arm on my back in a very protective, mother-like way.
She knows something must be seriously wrong for me to be crying. It's something I almost never did. Not even when the villagers were mean to me because of the Kyuubi.
"I killed him Tsunade-sama! I killed him! It's all my fault!"
"Killed who Naruto?" There's obvious concern for me in her voice.
It feels good to know that someone cares.
I can't believe that I blocked all that out for so long.
"S…Sasuke." I manage to croak out in between sobs.
Even though it's shameful, I can't stop the tears.
"What!" She and Shizune ask in confusion.
"Naruto, when did you see Sasuke?" Tsunade's voice had regained its seriousness again.
"Yesterday, near the Sound Village. We fought, and… and I killed him!"
"It's okay Naruto. Shizune, get him some pain meds or something. Also, have someone prepare the spare room. Naruto, you're going to stay here for a few days. Okay?"
It's more of a demand than a question, but I mumble yes anyway.
Even though I'm about 7 or so inches taller than Tsunade, she picks me up (inhuman strength, remember?) and carries me to the guestroom.
She puts me down on the bed and pulls the covers up to my chin.
The last thing I hear her say before she leaves is "Sleep well Kyuubi Kitaune-kun."
I stay at Hokage Tower for the next four days. By the end of this time, Tsunade has managed to extract the rntire story from me.
But I still feel hollow, like something is missing from me.
I lost hope.
I stopped hoping that Sasuke would come back. I stopped hoping that people would stop resenting me because of the Kyuubi. I stopped hoping that Kakashi would come back. I stopped hoping that pretending to be happy would make it all better.
That was when I completely shut down.
TWO MONTHS LATER
It would later be said that I was like and empty shell, already dead inside, and just going through the motions of life.
That night, I looked up at the sky for the first time in two moths, and I couldn't see my star. I didn't feel small either. I didn't feel anything at all.
As I felt the cold steel of the kunai pressed against my throat, my last realization was 'I guess there's more than one way to die too.'